Tag Archives: BAS

Overlooked Low- and No-Cost Energy Effiicent Opportunities

What is an often overlooked low- or no-cost technique for saving energy in building systems?

Tenant engagement is a valuable tool to educate and get occupants on board with a building wide energy and sustainability program. How a space is designed and occupied plays a big role in the overall building energy performance, which is reflected in a building’s Energy Star rating. We are also working on Tenant Star, which will recognize energy efficient leased space and provide a voluntary platform to benchmark tenant spaces. Another building wide solution to consider are demand response programs which reduce peak energy demand through pre-cooling and load shedding and which are incentivized through many utility programs.

Answers provided by Wendy Fok, project director, High Performance Demonstration Project of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Center for Market Innovation.

Source: http://www.facilitiesnet.com/energyefficiency/article/Overlooked-Low-and-NoCost-Energy-Effiicent-Opportunities–14996?source=part

5 Ways Going Green is Great for Buildings

A recent study of facility management executives found that 5 percent had certified a green building before 2012, but that 29 percent plan to certify one in 2013. That growth in the market for green buildings will ripple through the industry. Over the next ten years, buildings will become more grid-responsive, resilient, efficient, energy-positive and networked.

Grid Responsiveness
A survey indicted that 14 percent of U.S. building organizations currently participate in demand response programs. Building energy consumption can be continuously adjusted throughout the day to reduce demand at critical times.

To withstand natural disasters, there is an important role for distributed energy systems and smart building controls.

“The new approach would define policies and technical requirements for how to incorporate smart grid technology, microgrids, building controls and distributed generation, including CHP, with two-way flow networks into the grid. … This approach would allow building controls to provide a minimal level of service such as basic lights and refrigeration during emergencies,” the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding strategy noted.

Building efficiency improvements in lighting, HVAC and controls are the most popular improvements and more than two-thirds of organizations have addressed these in the past year.

There is a growing trend in building design to go net zero or energy positive. In fact, California has included net zero as an energy goal for 2030 for commercial buildings. The U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Army have also set energy-positive goals.

Smart buildings provide data and information needed to measure, monitor and manage building performance.

View Full Article in: Rocky Mountain Institute

Growth Expected For Smart Building Measures

Despite the gains facility executives have seen from implementing smart building measures, less than half say that their organizations have developed an overall smart building strategy. (See Figure 5.) By comparison, most organizations have overall strategies in place for energy efficiency and sustainability.

Figure 5. Does your organization have an overall: R=826

Smart building strategy (R=878): 45%
Energy efficiency strategy (R=858): 74%
Sustainability strategy (R=845): 61%

Among organizations that do have energy efficiency or sustainability strategies, a majority of respondents say they rank smart building strategies as top priorities for those strategies. (See Figures 6 and 7.)

Figure 6. How important is a smart building strategy to your current energy efficiency strategy? R=631

A top priority: 52%
Not a top priority: 41%
Not implementing smart building measures: 7%

Figure 7. How important is a smart building strategy to your current sustainability strategy? R=511

A top priority: 57%
Not a top priority: 38%
Not implementing smart building measures: 5%

Although a majority of respondents say smart building strategies are top priorities, the percentages are far smaller than the number that say smart building strategies have helped improve performance in energy and sustainability. This discrepancy suggests that many facility executives may be failing to integrate smart building planning, on a strategic level, with energy efficiency and sustainability planning.

But the survey suggests the next few years could see a significant upswing in the implementation of smart building measures. While the percentages of those who expect to take the two most common measures, lighting upgrades or recycling, decline compared to what was done the past three years (lighting upgrades down from 83 percent to 62 percent; recycling down from 70 percent to 39 percent), many smart building measures show an increase. (See Figure 8.)

Figure 8. Which of the following steps do you anticipate your organization taking in the next three years? R=775

Expect To Take Measures

Controls upgrades: 47%
Integration of building systems: 41%
Automated monitoring and reporting: 40%
Automated optimization: 23%
Continuous commissioning: 22%
Automated fault detection & diagnostics: 21%
Dashboards: 19%
Increase compared to implementation in past three years
No change
+5 percent
+8 percent
+53 percent
+120 percent
+50 percent
+58 percent

The increase for “integration of building systems” is particularly noteworthy for two reasons. One is because it comes after three years of integration improvements in many facilities. The other is because integration is vital as the underpinning of a smart building strategy.

“Systems integration is central to a smart building strategy,” Zimmer points out. “By integrating individual systems and buildings into a common user interface, operational activities in the various subsystems can be monitored to detect inefficient operating conditions, allowing corrective action in order to achieve high levels of systems optimization.”

Moores believes all building systems should be accessible through the building management system and well interfaced for Internet access. Facility executives and others “should have access to pertinent information via dashboards,” says Moores.

Gerald Cotter, associate director of engineering and project management for Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, believes systems integration has to make smart building strategies “as simplified as possible.”

That’s not to say that systems integration guarantees a smart building. “Systems integration is an important element but will not in and of itself create value,” says Rob Murchison, co-founder of Intelligent Buildings, LLC. “There are many high-tech, integrated systems that are set on override or that don’t use interoperability.”

“Smart building strategies need to be easy enough for everyone to understand,” says Moores.

It’s essential to have a strategy for systems integration, rather than simply integrating systems for the sake of integration. “A systems integrator may come in and offer an overlaying control system that will monitor every system and subsystem in the building through one interface,” says Andrew Reilman, associate partner at Syska Hennessy Group, a consulting engineering firm. Reilman doesn’t believe that is an appropriate strategy for every building. “The question is, why are you doing it?” Gigabytes of data that no one uses or knows how to extrapolate are useless. “The facility executive needs an easy way to extract and collate data to verify energy model results.”

Analytics is emerging as an important area of smart building technology. The survey showed that about one in five respondents are now using analytics to improve energy efficiency while another one in three are considering that option. (See Figure 9.)

Figure 9. Are you currently using or considering analytics software to improve energy efficiency in your buildings? R=797

Using analytics to improve energy efficiency:


Considering analytics to improve energy efficiency:


Neither using nor considering analytics software to improve energy efficiency:


Role of the BAS in Smart Buildings

Basic control over building functions is essential to smart building strategies. Building automation is generally the cornerstone because its aim is to optimize energy performance while enhancing occupant comfort. Employing sensors, controllers, actuators, and software, a building automation system (BAS) may serve many functions, including:

  • Optimizing start/stop functions on various building systems and subsystems.
  • Scheduling maintenance.
  • Employing predictive fault detection.
  • Detecting abnormal operating conditions.
  • Alarming and preventive actions to minimize damage in case of emergency.

Depending on the BAS chosen and the preferences of the organization, decisions can be made manually by building operators, or facility staff can use embedded intelligence algorithms to automate actions.

The range of capabilities of a BAS makes it well-suited to be the basis of a smart building. And the survey shows that most facility executives do identify the BAS as the foundation of smart building strategies. (See chart below.) The University of Southern California (USC) has a smart building strategy that allows facilities management to see what’s happening in every campus building, according to Andrew Reilman, associate partner at Syska Hennessy Group.

Which do you think should be the foundation for smart building strategies? R=795

Building automation system: 55%
Software analytics: 11%
Not sure: 31%
Other: 3%

“They know what’s going on in operations and maintenance across building systems, down to the filters and their product numbers,” Reilman notes. USC’s building management system has a facilities management system layer that allows sophisticated control strategies. “But you could also treat a 50-story high-rise building as a ‘campus,'” says Reilman, to accomplish similar smart options.

Almost by definition, many BAS functions make a building smarter. For example, Thomas F. Smyth, director, facility services at Cobbleskill Regional Hospital, believes the advantage of a building automation system is “less human error. The BAS lets you create setpoints and parameters for temperature in a specific space, for instance, so that is not left to someone’s memory. It also does monitoring functions so that we don’t have unhappy surgeons in the operating room. Of course, the BAS is only as good as the people operating the system.”

Tom Walsh, chief engineer for Transwestern Commercial Services, believes another excellent use for BAS in smart building strategies is “trending data, particularly watching how and when temperatures rise and fall. This is invaluable information to use for planning energy use.”

In addition to controlling, monitoring, and trending strategies, a BAS can serve another valuable smart building function, says Gerald Cotter, associate director of engineering and project management for Connecticut State Colleges and Universities. “The BAS can show others what we are doing to save energy and encourage sustainability. When people can see the benefits, they are more willing to spend money on improvements.”

Experience Shows Value Of Smart Building Measures, But Obstacles Remain

Facility executives say that money often is the biggest obstacle to smart building strategies. Tom Walsh, chief engineer for Transwestern Commercial Services, stresses this includes not just first cost, but also return on investment (ROI). “We prefer ROIs in two to three years,” Walsh explains. He also looks for energy improvements that will increase the value of the building.

The survey results bear out the extent to which a lack of financial resources can be an obstacle to smart building strategies. While only 3 percent of respondents say smart building technology is not available today, 69 percent say they don’t have a budget for smart building strategies. What’s more, having staff resources — another budget issue — is an obstacle for roughly half of respondents. (See Figure 2)

Figure 2. What are the obstacles to development and implementation of smart building strategies in your organization? R=469

We don’t have a budget for smart building strategies: 69%
We don’t have time/staff to implement smart building strategies: 49%
Smart building strategies cost too much: 24%
I’m not familiar with smart building strategies: 19%
Top management does not support the use of smart building strategies: 18%
Information about smart building technology is not readily available: 8%
Smart building technology is not available today: 3%
Other: 7%

Thomas F. Smyth, director, facility services at Cobbleskill Regional Hospital, also believes another obstacle is education and training. “How much quality training is available from the company that sold you that system?” Smyth asks. “Sometimes the training is free. Sometimes training is so expensive you cannot afford it.” On the topic of training, Smyth also believes refresher courses are valuable both for existing facilities staff and for new hires.

Kristina Moores, an associate at Arup, an engineering and design firm, thinks the biggest obstacle to smart building strategies is not all building systems are tied into the building management system, followed closely by the lack of user education. “There are many vendors selling smart equipment and programs, but the new software may not allow for coordinated systems and points reporting from existing building systems,” Moores points out.

Experience With Smart Building Systems

Although funding has posed a hurdle to wider implementation of smart building measures, the survey shows that those measures have paid off with gains in energy efficiency and sustainability. Among facility executives who have implemented smart building strategies, a large majority has found that those measures aid efforts to boost energy efficiency and sustainability. (See Figures 3 and 4.)

Figure 3. Have steps you’ve taken to make your facilities smarter also improved energy efficiency outcomes? R=826

Yes: 82%
No: 4%
Haven’t taken steps to make the facility smarter: 14%


Figure 4. Have steps you’ve taken to make your facilities smarter also improved sustainability outcomes? R=830

Yes: 69%
No: 11%
Haven’t taken steps to make the facility smarter: 20%

It’s worth noting that fairly significant numbers of facility executives say their organizations haven’t taken steps to make the facility smarter. When those organizations are factored out, the vote for the value of smart building measures is even stronger. Looking strictly at respondents who have taken smart building measures, 96 percent say those steps improved energy efficiency, and 86 percent say they improved sustainability.

These results are in line with the experiences of those who are familiar with smart building strategies. Facility executives and independent experts alike have seen that smart building strategies can improve building performance, increasing overall energy efficiency and assisting in sustainability efforts. In addition, the savings in energy costs can improve the bottom line.

According to CABA statistics, advanced smart building strategies can reduce energy use as much as 50 percent compared to unimproved buildings, “with the most efficient buildings performing up to 70 percent better than conventional properties,” says Zimmer.

With smart building strategies, energy efficiency isn’t achieved at the expense of occupant comfort. “If you put the effort and brainpower into your BAS, you can get what you are looking for in controlling the comfort level and also keeping a handle on the energy side of things,” says Smyth.

Provided senior management buys into the smart building strategy, implementation and execution are thought out, and accountability exists, “smart building strategies can significantly lower operational costs through optimizing building functionality across different systems such as lighting, HVAC, security, elevators, etc.,” says Rob Murchison, co-founder of Intelligent Buildings, LLC. Murchison also points to the importance of retrocommissioning and continuously commissioning the building, as well as monitoring and measuring progress.

Key strategies that enable energy efficiency and sustainability ideally use BAS and building energy management systems from building inception, suggests Zimmer. On-going commissioning also is critical. “Through the use of these technologies and techniques, building owners and managers can realize many financial benefits, including lower energy costs, lower maintenance costs, and lower repair and replacement costs,” he explains.

It’s important for facility executives to present a complete picture of the economic value of smart building measures when seeking funding. “Building managers can use life-cycle costs analysis to calculate the cost of a building system over its entire life span,” notes Zimmer. The life cycle process analyzes the long-term impact of construction and infrastructure costs on forecasted operational costs throughout the expected life of the property.

Importance of People in Smart Building Strategies

Experts agree that people play a crucial role in smart building strategies. For Shircliff, the three pillars of a smart building strategy are buildings, people, and technology. “The buildings must be enabled and the people, including process, aligned to best leverage newer technologies and basic information technology (IT),” he says.

Smyth believes a program that focuses on educating employees and hospital staff is essential. Communicating what smart building strategies are being implemented can be accomplished by an email that explains the precise situation, according to Smyth. “Let’s say we want to turn off all computers when they are not in use,” says Smyth. “So we show how many kilowatts per hour can be saved and how that adds up as we get more cooperation. Then we may show what that savings can represent. For instance, we may be able to add another piece of equipment for our patients.”

Walsh also believes keeping building occupants informed helps in energy conservation and sustainability efforts. He uses a newsletter to tell building occupants how much paper is being diverted from landfills, the advantages of using automated faucets, and even the benefits of variable frequency drives.

Like Smyth, Walsh has found informing building occupants encourages them “to pitch in with everyone else. We also get more feedback and that is a good thing.”

Zimmer sees a smart building strategy as combining IT, equipment, and the efforts of highly skilled people.

“The universe of technology solutions that create an intelligent building has evolved considerably over the last decade,” says Zimmer. “Innovations in energy-saving solutions, smart sensing, remote monitoring, automated diagnostics, as well as a myriad of Internet-based solutions have made their way into the domain of intelligent building solutions. The solutions allow buildings to become more responsive to the needs of occupants. The solutions, however, do require oversight by professionals with a high level of expertise.”

Medical Center Uses BAS for Smart Energy, Sustainability Strategies

Located in central Texas, Dell Children’s Medical Center is part of the Seton Family of Hospitals. The 503,000-square-foot medical center has achieved LEED Platinum certification for new construction.

Acting as the heart of this accomplishment is a building automation system (BAS) that efficiently integrates numerous facility systems and devices. From a single workstation, technicians can monitor and control indoor air quality, HVAC operation, and utility distribution. An energy management system also integrates the fire alarm system and provides air handling system control.

Alan Bell, Seton’s director of design and construction, reports that “with our building system we’ve been able to achieve about 17 percent better efficiency than ASHRAE standards, which was the target for our LEED rating.”

The medical center’s BAS supports complex smart building strategies for energy conservation and sustainability. For example, integration with variable frequency drives in combination with underfloor systems drives energy costs down. In addition, chilled water consumption is monitored, kilowatt-hour use is calculated, and run time on all pumps is managed by the BAS.

Let’s Connect. Collaborate. And Partner Together! Info@setpointsystems.com

HVAC Systems Common Target Of Sustainability Projects

HVAC systems are targets for sustainability improvements in many facilities because of the high costs related to their installation, operation and maintenance. A properly designed and installed HVAC system can provide years of comfort for occupants, lower energy bills and improved water consumption. But a lack of proper planning can jeopardize material costs for preventive maintenance activities, energy costs and occupant comfort.

If in-house technicians and operators are especially comfortable with certain types of HVAC technology and equipment, managers can enhance productivity by asking mechanical engineers to base designs on such technology. If technicians have no experience or preference, managers might want to hire another mechanical engineering firm to provide a third-party validation of the selected approach. The second firm can help technicians prepare for such situations as running the HVAC system with 100 percent outdoor air during preoccupancy or early occupancy to flush out contaminants as a way of achieving LEED’s indoor air quality requirements.

Geothermal HVAC systems are popular options for projects pursuing LEED certification. These systems can help managers effectively reduce energy costs and environmental impact, and they can provide occupant comfort if designed, installed, and operated correctly.

If a project involves a geothermal system, managers need to ask the following questions early in the planning process:

• Were soil borings taken to analyze the geological and hydrogeological data and ensure soil characteristics will enable the system to perform optimally?

• Is the spacing of the wells correct?

• Is the grout mixture correct?

• Were monitoring and testing points specified and installed to ensure system performance can be verified and trended?

If the answer to each question is yes, the geothermal system might be an effective system.


Building automation systems (BAS)

BAS have become more complex in facilities in recent years, and they have come to encompass more than just HVAC controls. Today’s BAS also consist of electrical-power monitoring, lighting controls, condition-based monitoring, access control, and audio/visual system control. They enable technicians to optimize these facility systems to reduce energy use and maintenance costs.

But BAS also can come with hidden costs associated with developing information-technology security plans and the purchase of annual licensing agreements. Also, software upgrades are inevitable over the life cycle of a BAS. Other issues that can arise involve support to provide virus protection if the system is on a network as a way of ensuring hackers do not get in, especially with supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, which provide control across multiple sites and large distances.

One important issue for technicians is the expertise to program multiple systems. In some cases, BAS are proprietary, and manufacturers in some cases can hesitate to provide training or detailed user manuals. This might delay return to service of equipment that displays cryptic failure codes.

If multiple or new BAS are part of a new sustainable building, managers must ensure technicians receive proper training and that the training is documented. It is not uncommon to forget the content of the training by the time they return to using the system.

Sustainable facilities will remain a high priority due to environmental awareness and the need to reduce energy costs. As a result, maintenance and engineering managers need to understand the role of BAS and HVAC systems in achieving these goals and be informed when working with architects, engineers and construction companies in the design and construction of such facilities. Good decisions will ensure a successful, bottom-line friendly transition to sustainable operations and maintenance.

Christopher R. Williamson, P.E., CMRP, CEM, LEED AP — cwilliamsonpe@gmail.com— works for Jacobs Engineering as a maintenance director of a federal installation in Southeastern Virginia with more than 270 buildings. He has more than 20 years experience as an electrician, electrical design engineer and maintenance manager.

US Building Automation Market Primed for Growth

Could Help Commercial Structures Cope with Rising Energy Costs
The U.S. market for building automation equipment is set to grow by more than 40 percent within a five-year period ending in 2017, spurred by the need in commercial buildings for more efficient energy consumption, according to a new report from IHS Inc. (NYSE: IHS).

With electricity rates on the rise, driven by increasing wholesale prices and investments in renewable sources of energy, demand for lower energy consumption in buildings is bound to occur, the findings in the report entitled “Building Automation Equipment” suggest.

All told, the U.S. building automation systems market will reach a projected $1.65 billion by year-end, up 5 percent from $1.57 billion in 2012. Solid growth ranging from 7 to 9 percent will follow in the next four years, with industry revenue forecast to hit $2.24 billion by 2017, equivalent to a 43 percent increase from 2012, as shown in the below figure.

The spiraling cost of electricity is a major factor in the operational efficiency of a commercial building structure, which explains why building automation systems could play an important role. Prices for U.S. retail electric power will increase by 8 percent from 2012 to 2020, IHS CERA forecasts, with a sizable proportion of the increase in price related to the investments being made by the market in renewable energy.

A similar story is unfolding in Germany, where the Energiewende policy is promoting the move away from nuclear and fossil-fuel power generation and toward renewable sources of energy. Such investments are driving up the cost of energy overall and adding pressure to the already stretched operational budgets of many commercial and government organizations.

“With budgets cut and many large companies struggling to grow at more than 5 percent on an annual basis, the higher cost of electricity could prove to be a major headache for commercial and government building owners,” said Sam Grinter, market analyst for the Building Technologies group at IHS.
The solution to rising energy prices

In particular, buildings consume huge quantities of energy through heating, ventilation and cooling, Grinter noted. “Making buildings as efficient as possible is crucial to driving down energy consumption. And one way to increase energy efficiency is to install an integrated building automation system,” Grinter noted.

Building automation systems centrally manage the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems of a structure. Compared to more basic mechanisms, building automation systems can save a considerable amount of energy consumption, via scheduled periods of heating or through cooling controlled by a thermostat, to cite two examples. Some vendors of building automation systems claim that energy savings of more than 30 percent can be obtained when evaluated against conventional HVAC systems.

This is why building owners will increasingly look to building automation systems to achieve savings on energy consumption, especially as the cost of electricity keeps going up, IHS believes.


Building Automation Systems Revenue to Reach $100.8 Billion in 2021

Building Automation Systems Revenue to Reach $100.8 Billion in 2021


Global commercial building automation systems revenue will grow from $58.1 billion in 2013 to $100.8 billion in 2021, according to a study by Navigant Research.

Commercial building automation systems continue to evolve from point solutions built from proprietary products toward open and integrated systems based on modern digital information technologies. Integrated by new building management systems, the automation of HVAC, lighting, fire and life safety, and security and access controls is increasingly forming the foundational infrastructure for advanced energy management products and services. The resulting solutions are aimed at reducing the nearly 12 percent of total global energy end use by the commercial sector, according to Commercial Building Automation Systems.

The global market for commercial building automation systems is driven in general by new and retrofit commercial building construction and more specifically by the energy efficiencyrequirements applied to this construction. New commercial construction has been suppressed by the financial crisis of 2008 in most of the global market, with the exception of certain parts of Asia Pacific, and the building controls market has suffered as a result, according to the report.

However, renewed economic growth and accelerating energy efficiency targets for commercial buildings are combining to offer significant market growth opportunities. Additionally, the adoption of new embedded computing, communications, sensing, and software technologies is fundamentally changing the underlying products and services within the commercial BAS market, presenting risks and rewards for various industry stakeholders, the report says.

The North American building automation systems market generated revenue of $535.3 million in 2011, up 0.7 percent over the previous year, according to a report by Frost & Sullivan released in October 2012.

By: Energy Manager Today Staff

Why the time is right for integration

By becoming a building systems integrator, engineers can ensure successful buildings—and a successful future.

Technology to monitor electrical systems from a computer-based graphical user interface, or front end, has existed for decades. But the cost to monitor these systems used to be high—often prohibitively so—while the features and benefits provided by the solution were often slim. Purchasing a single-vendor packaged solution was often required, creating lifecycle cost problems and owner frustrations. During the past decade, however, a number of factors have converged to remove the traditional barriers to integration.

Changes made by electrical product manufacturers include:

  • Lower cost of embedding microprocessors with communication ports into equipment
  • Lower cost and complexity of application development
  • Continual increase in microprocessor power
  • Open, standards-based communication protocols that reduce development costs and increase immediate market demand for individual products.

The combined result is that virtually any manufactured electrical product with a microprocessor can now be purchased with a standards-based open protocol network connection for a small additional cost and quite often includes a standard network connection. Furthermore, to differentiate their products, manufacturers are enhancing the application layer features provided by the software in their microprocessors. For example, it is nearly impossible to purchase a 3-phase power meter without a Modbus connection, and advanced features such as web-based user interfaces, onboard trend collection, alarm e-mails, and alternate protocols are available for small additional costs.

BAS system changes include:

  • The demand for standards-based open communication protocols has pushed all vendors to readily support them.
  • Modern BAS system architecture relies heavily on standard Ethernet networks and many BAS systems are implemented on owner Ethernet networks.
  • BAS software configuration/development environments now commonly provide tools to speed integration of third-party open protocols and non-HVAC equipment, such as meters and lighting controls.
  • Third-party enterprise applications that operate on top of a modern BAS are now more prevalent and can offer powerful specialty enhancements to a standard BAS.
  • As single-vendor proprietary BAS implementations become obsolete, BAS integration personnel have become better trained and have developed deep experience in integrating electrical systems.

The result of these changes means that any modern BAS can easily be expanded to integrate with electrical and mechanical systems. Vendors and integrators are integrating these systems regularly. The applications that are available can deliver powerful new value from additional data.

Owners and engineers may have been burned in the past by the cost, complexity, and disappointing results of electrical system integration attempts, and may now be reluctant to repeat a lesson learned the hard way. But progress by both electrical equipment and BAS systems has now passed the point where the cost/benefit is more strongly in favor of integration.

To learn more about integrating your building or facility contact an account manager at Setpoint Systems Corproation

Article By:

Anil Ahuja has 30 years of experience in building systems design, design management, construction management, commissioning, and operations and maintenance. He has project experience including commercial, institutional, educational, residential, industrial, and airports. He is a member of the Consulting-Specifying Engineer editorial advisory board.

Energy Savings: the Data Are in the Details

Energy managers know that every commercial building is complex. The upside to that complexity is that many of these buildings offer large energy efficiency potential. Through identifying efficiency opportunities in thousands of commercial buildings to-date, we have confirmed a simple premise. A commercial building’s energy use data set is like a fingerprint: no two are exactly alike.

With that in mind, energy managers need a smart strategy for understanding and capturing efficiency opportunities. Here are a few tips:

1)     Don’t just look across the road – A recent slew of energy management tools suggest that energy managers can design energy efficiency strategies based on comparisons to buildings with a similar size and use-profile. Don’t be tempted to compare your efficiency achievements with building operators overseeing other properties.

Our research has shown that ‘like-building’ hypothesis may prove true for the residential sector or the smallest commercial buildings such as pizza shops. But for most of the commercial sector, even very similar buildings can have vastly different energy-use profiles, and it’s important to tailor your strategy accordingly.  Take for example the two buildings highlighted in the infographic below, both of which operate near Chicago with similar sizes, sources of heating/power, assets, and Energy Use Intensity. Their strong resemblance on the surface disappears with a deeper dive into the building’s true energy usage patterns.

While a “like-building” analysis using benchmarks or past databases might suggest that these buildings have similar opportunities, in fact, Building #1 has nearly twice the annual savings potential as Building #2.  It also has more operationally-focused energy conservation opportunities coming from lighting controls, HVAC/plug controls and cooling set points. In contrast, Building #2 would benefit most from a lighting retrofit, making its energy reduction opportunity more about asset improvements than about operational changes.

Looking even deeper, an even larger difference is noticed in how energy is used throughout the building. Cooling usage dominates Building #2 (48% vs. 18%), while Building #1 has more usage going to lighting and plug loads. These breakdowns are part of what drives the differences in recommendations.  It’s worth noting that these unique building results came from advanced analytics applied to their meter data, leading us to the next tip…

Every Building Has Its Own Story To Tell

If all buildings have their own story to tell, how can you effectively approach each and every one?

2)     Real data doesn’t lie – Greater availability of high frequency consumption data coming from commercial building utility meters, coupled with recent advancements in data analytics provides a completely new way to understand energy performance. This data is just as available as square footage and EUI, but much, much richer.  Using consumption data as a starting point for understanding your usage gets you to the source of energy (in)efficiencies. It is not uncommon for data analytics to uncover, for example, a simultaneous heating and cooling issue that a building operator is adamant doesn’t exist. That is, until he goes and double checks the air conditioning systems.  You can’t hide from what the data reveals.  Although it may be uncomfortable to see the truth,data and advanced analytics provide great insights into ways to save energy and money in your building.

3)     Go deep and be objective – not wide and subjective. Many energy efficiency initiatives start with an audit, so the quality of information gained from that step is critical. Sending in a team of people with hard hats and clipboards to record the minutiae of energy use, from how often the mechanical equipment is shut down to how many times the building automation system is manually overridden, may be the first choice. However, in some situations, it may not be the best. Besides being an expensive and time-consuming endeavor, those kinds of audits may be led by individuals with differing experience, motivation, and techniques.  Numerous studies have shown that onsite audits yield highly inconsistent results, mostly because it’s hard to make consistent auditors.

Think about audit partners that can strive for objective consistency each and every time they analyze a building. There are firms that can provide that level of deep and specific building detail without requiring all those boots on the ground. An even better approach may be to perform the analytics first and then provide those results to the energy audit team, therefore enhancing the overall process.

4)     Put your utilities on speed dial – It is becoming common knowledge that many utility companies have significant monetary incentives for increasing building energy efficiency. So, it’s time to take full advantage. Every commercial energy manager should know who runs the efficiency programs within their utility providers, and should be in regular touch to better understand their buildings’ energy use profiles and savings opportunities, and available incentives.

Like all relationships, however, the energy manager-utility relationship is a two-way street. The better data and insight that utilities have on your energy usage, the better job they can do to help you realize savings. As the infographic above contends, every commercial building in a utility’s portfolio is different, and you should look to partner with your utility to identify the right kinds of operational and asset-based cost savings opportunities.

5)     Go public. Making your buildings’ energy performance part of everyone’s business is, well, good business. Providing energy audit results to your constituents – from tenants’ facility personnel to your preferred energy contractors to your own CFO – is crucial in ensuring that efficiency projects don’t fall by the wayside.

Why is transparency so important? Because it enables you to demonstrate not just the hows of energy efficiency (e.g., turning off the lights at 6:00 p.m. will save 10,000 kWh of energy) but also thewhys (e.g., turning off the lights at 6:00 p.m. saved the company $1,500 in energy costs last month, enabling us to purchase better equipment for our staff or our tenants). Most important, making energy use and savings data available helps make a stronger business case for energy efficiency projects.

Every building has its own story to tell, and the plotline is in the detail revealed through analytics. Data that lives deep within the lighting, power, HVAC and water systems in every building should be mined, analyzed and presented in a way that shows the value that energy efficiency projects can unlock. By looking at each building’s unique energy fingerprint, you can find hidden opportunities for efficiency and cost savings without always having to putting on a hardhat.

Article By: Swapnil Shah is CEO of FirstFuel.

How Facility Managers Can Integrate Systems In Existing Buildings

How Facility Managers Can Integrate Systems In Existing Buildings by: Jim Sinopoli

When it comes to the idea of integrating systems in existing buildings, facility managers may find themselves torn. On the one hand, there are solid, bottom-line reasons to integrate systems in existing buildings. On the other, there is a range of problems that don’t exist in new construction, from legacy systems to missing information. But those problems don’t mean that facility managers should forget about integration in existing buildings. Good planning can go a long way to getting around those challenges.

It’s important to keep in mind that systems integration can deliver tangible benefits in existing buildings. For example, by functionally linking two systems, facility managers can obtain system capabilities that neither system could do by itself. The best example of this process is the integration that takes place with the fire alarm system. The fire alarm triggers the HVAC system to control smoke and ventilation, the access control system to provide egress for occupant evacuation, the elevator system to either bring the cabs to the bottom floor or, depending on the height of the building, provide elevators for evacuation in a high-rise. Without the automated systems’ integration, each of these components would have to be separately and manually adjusted. The integration provides functionality that no one system can, does so automatically, and the facility and its occupants benefit. The theory is, essentially, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Another reason to integrate systems is to combine the system data. The facility manager isn’t limited to simply looking at data from one building system; rather, a database with multiple systems is created so holistic data can be analyzed and correlated, and useful building metrics can be developed that will lead to enhanced operations. This type of unified database is generally used in a truly integrated building management system. Bringing all the facility data into a unified database architecture and putting into practice standard methodologies and processes to manage the data has multiple benefits. Building data are more widely available, sharable, and accessible. There’s also improvements in archiving, preservation, and retention of data, as well as improved integrity of the data. From a cost basis, a single database considerably reduces the cost and support for synchronizing separate databases. It provides a common platform for data mining, data exchange, and enterprise data access.

Today’s systems integration includes all of the control systems in a building, but also encompasses facility management systems and business systems, and eventually will extend to utility grids.

Integration in Existing Buildings

For new construction systems, integration is addressed in MasterFormat Division 25, created in 2004, with the resulting product being construction documents for integrated automation similar to specifications and drawings from other design disciplines.

While new construction may have higher visibility, the fact is that there are many more existing buildings than new construction projects, and there is no reason why existing properties can’t benefit from systems integration. The financial impact of improving the performance of an existing building and adding appropriate technology amenities can be compelling. The investment in an existing building is returned in reduced operating and energy costs, lower cost for tenant improvements, higher rents, higher asset valuation, and a positive impact on capital planning.

Existing buildings come with baggage, however. They already have building systems installed. It’s likely that older buildings may have automation systems using proprietary or legacy network protocols which will need to be migrated to open protocols. Typically this means the use of gateways or some middleware to translate protocols.

There are other challenges. Sometimes the documentation on the building systems — such as the original as-built drawings — may be unavailable. Cable pathways, if needed, may be difficult to find. And there may be organizational issues involved with coordinating facility management and IT.